Category Archives: Peru

Peru Festivals

La Fiesta Mama Negra in Ecuador

By Melissa Ruttanai

While the northern hemisphere hunkers down for cool autumn months, Ecuador blooms with warm breezes, clear skies, and the beginning of the festival season in October.

Peru FestivalsDown the spine of the Andes Mountains just one hour south of Quito, the city of Latacunga fills its streets with streamers and parades the cathedral’s statue of the Virgin and Child through several neighborhoods.

Locals and visitors alike gather in the main plaza. They snap pictures and dance to the bands. They buy snacks and pop open bottles of Pilsener beer. Horses enter the courtyard and astride one is the figure of Mama Negra, the city’s protector against volcanic eruptions and destructive weather. The band strikes a fast beat and Mama Negra herself unveils a black bottle and sprays the crowd in a ritual cleansing.

At the Fiesta of Mama Negra, prepare yourself for dancing in the streets and non-stop festivities.

On each plaza corner, bands whip up festival-goers with hip swinging music. All year long, musicians and townspeople have been saving up for this event.

And they don’t hold anything back. Pastel-hued colors burst across the promenade. Pink coats and blue skirts twirl to the melody. Costumed men carry portal altars on their backs, offering devout tokens of respect to the patroness that include a dozen bottles of whiskey, roasted chicken, smoked guinea pig, and one immense BBQ pig.

Ribbons decorate the spaces in between as each man hews the altar down the parade route. Even small boys get involved as each one carries a miniature sized offering.

While bands blast trumpets and beat drums, each parishioner dances euphorically through the streets of Latacunga. In between altars and bands, they strut their choreographed hips through the cobbled avenues.

With handkerchiefs men guide their partners through the routine, hollering and celebrating each step. The women purse pink lips, swirling with the beat and smiling with pride. At the Fiesta de Mama Negra, the parade snakes up and down the streets for miles.

For hours, the bands march and dancers dip and twirl their partners. Mama Negra sprays the crowd with alcohol and gangs of masked men cleanse innocent bystanders with branches of green leaves. In the crowd, onlookers share beer and whiskey. They cheer and push each other into the midst of the dancing parade. Amongst friends and family and strangers, they jest and joke from noon past midnight.

Latacunga, a city high in Ecuador’s Andes, offers an authentic insight into everyday life in the mountains and is a great cultural extension either in between the usual tours to the Galapagos and Machu Picchu.

5 travel adventures

5 adventurous destinations around the world

Adventurous destinations are the stuff of travel dreams. This week, Rebecca Kelly offers us plenty to imagine, work for, and dream of with five adventurous destinations from around the world.

Everest Base Camp, Nepal
Mount Everest is known by all as the highest peak in the world, it is known by climbers and adventurers however as an immense challenge that is best left to the professionals. A classic Himalayan trek with incredible views and rewards that can be enjoyed by all adventure enthusiasts is a trek to Everest Base Camp. Trek takes you through an exciting forest and over mountains giving you stunning views of the surrounding peaks whilst the dramatic landscape around you changes as you continue to climb higher and higher up the Khumbu Valley.

Grand Canyon, Colorado
For adventurers, the most exciting way to appreciate the Grand Canyon’s natural capacity and power is to raft through it; the Colorado River through canyon is one of the wildest stretches of white water in the United States. 5 travel adventuresThe full journey through the canyon (from Lees Ferry to Lake Mead) is 275 miles in length and makes for a challenging, fun adventure with some staggering scenery, white-water thrills, and magical hikes.

Masai Mara Safari, Kenya
For a safari with real-life, thrilling adventure try a Masai Mara Safari. The Masai Mara reserve is one of the best destinations in the world for viewing wildlife in its natural habitat and offers plenty to see. During the winter months, it’s easy to assume that all will be quiet on the reserve however you couldn’t be more wrong. Many tourists aim to target their trip to coincide with the migration season but there is life to be seen throughout the year. Between August and November, you can spot the two million wildebeest charge across the green-land as they migrate from the Serengeti in search of water, or in spring, experience the first sightings of new-born life. For frightening thrills, predators such as lions, cheetahs and leopards can be spotted prowling the terrain whilst graceful giraffes can be found flaunting their astonishing stature.

Inca Trail, Peru
Being the best-known and most popular hike on the South-American continent, the Inca Trail is an exhilarating, challenging and unforgettable experience. The journey starts in the village of Qorihuayrachina and takes three or four days of strenuous walking to complete. The trail is surrounded by breathtaking scenery, crossing the Andes mountain range and sections of the Peruvian jungle and rain forest  Ending at the old citadel of Machu Picchu provides a rewarding finale and time to discover the ancient citadel. Together, the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu make up one of the wonders of the world.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef, covering over 350,000 square kilometers of the sea and is the only living collection of organisms that are visible from Earth’s orbit. Most of the Reef’s diversity occurs in the top 4 meters of water and the best way to experience this is by snorkeling  The reef is believed to be the densest assemblage of living organisms to be found in any comparable area in the world thus the thousands of beautiful coral gardens and abundant marine life will leave you mesmerized.

Mistura Peru Food Festival

Mistura: Peru’s Festival Of Food

By Maureen Santucci

Lima is often referred to as the Gastronomic Capital of Latin America and going to the annual food festival Mistura is a great way to find out why. I recently went for the first time, getting in the back door so to speak as I was helping my friends who have a small but renowned pisco (Peruvian brandy) bar in Cusco, El Pisquerito.

Mistura Peru Food FestivalThis was the festival’s fourth year and each year sees it growing larger, both in terms of the number of foods and establishments represented as well as the numbers of people attending. The festival runs for eleven days, each day packed with Peruvians and foreigners alike eating, drinking and celebrating the country’s vast culinary heritage.

The event was huge, with literally hundreds of stands offering delicacies from each of Peru’s diverse regions. There was a section dedicated to the ingeniously simple dish called ceviche, fish marinated in lime and chili. There was the carapulca stand, a rich and tasty stew created by the Afro-Peruvian descendants of slaves and traditionally served with cat meat (although fortunately not at Mistura!) There was an entire section given over to the worship of pisco and all the various cocktails it can be used in.
There was a huge grill, on which juicy skewers of anticucho, deliciously tender cubes of beef heart, were sizzling.

Inside a tent that was more like a temporary aircraft hanger, I found indigenous farmers displaying their wares; countless varieties of multicolored potato, maize of every hue, and creamy cherimoya fruit the size of your head.

Mistura is such a success because it reflects the diversity of Peru’s cuisine and history. Naturally, the very finest restaurants are all represented, serving tasters of their signature dishes. But then again so are all the common delicacies more often found on street corners.

Peruvians are rightly proud of their national cuisine, and in a country often divided by wealth, race and geography, Mistura offers a welcome celebration of national unity.

Sampling the delights is easy; visitors simply purchase food tickets which can be exchanged for dishes at each stall. The only trick is saving enough space to taste everything. Real foodies can only do the event justice by buying a multi-day ticket and coming every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If you are able to time your trip to Peru with the Mistura food festival you would be mad to skip the opportunity of experiencing the event for yourself.

Otherwise, food fanatics can arrange culinary tours and experiences, including taster sessions at top restaurants and Peruvian cooking classes by contacting a special interest tour operator, or a specialist in luxury Peru tours.